Writing stories from your own life is a funny thing.
Those stories are about you, yes, but they’re about us too, if we’re your readers. We want to read about you and your life because we want to learn about our lives and ourselves. (And if you blog, you write your life’s stories at least some of the time.)
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Real life stories are my favorite thing to read and write, both, and sometimes I just want someone to take them apart and show me how they’re made.
These books do that for me — maybe for you, too?
The Situation and the Story
There’s what happens in your story, and then there’s what your story is really about. Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story helps you see the difference, and understand why you need them both.
Writing Life Stories
Bill Roorbach’s Writing Life Stories helped me start thinking more clearly about a memoir’s structure, among other things. (Not all essays are really short memoirs, but some: yes.)
Bird by Bird
I’m pretty sure there’s a law stating that all lists of how-to-write books must include Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird? Well, just in case. Check.
There’s a reason for that, though. Lamott is so accessible here, but also gives you plenty of strategy and specific instruction. You get the sense that she believes in you — that you ARE a writer. You WILL develop a writing practice that works. Now get to it, messy first drafts and one-inch-frames and all!
It’s not specific to essay writing, but I still think you’ll be glad to have read it if you haven’t already.